NPWJ warmly welcomes UNGA significant resolution on climate justice

31 Mar, 2023 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 31 March 2023

NPWJ warmly welcomes the United Nations General Assembly’s request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on the legal responsibilities of States in respect of climate change. We congratulate Vanuatu, who spear-headed the process leading to the adoption of this historic resolution, for their commitment to this critical issue.

On 29 March, a significant resolution on climate justice was passed by the United Nations General Assembly: Vanuatu’s proposal to request an advisory opinion from the ICJ was supported by over 130 member States without opposition. The resolution asks the main UN judicial body to offer direction on the legal obligations of States, particularly the major polluters, to encourage even the most hesitant governments to align with the global climate objectives. The ICJ has 18 months to deliver a positive or negative response to the resolution; if accepted, the outcome will not be binding but will nonetheless be influential for further decisions on environmental justice.

The resolution asks the ICJ to rule on what are the obligations of States, under international law, to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases for States and for present and future generations. The precise obligations States have remains unclear, despite the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  What is clear is that far from enough is being done to combat climate change and environmental devastation; whatever their legal obligations, States must do more to address these issues. NPWJ therefore endorses the comments of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who urged States to adopt new policies and laws, increase their commitment, and take effective action in the fight against climate change.

Moreover, NPWJ is interested in the potential impact of these recent developments on the work related to ecocide. On 29 March, the European Parliament announced its support for the inclusion of ecocide in the EU’s revised environmental crime directive, for which NPWJ had participated in the consultation process led by the Parliament in 2021. While much work has been done in recent years, the international discourse on ecocide has focused on international criminal law, including the International Criminal Court, and has not been as widely discussed at the regional level. NPWJ, therefore, hopes that these recent advances will facilitate a broadening the discourse on ecocide, including by extending discussions to regional levels and through the engagement of indigenous communities, and provide a more comprehensive perspective on climate change and accountability for deforestation and other environmental devastation.